Friday, 19 October 2012

Redden, Tootoo Practice with Wheat Kings

Wade Redden strike a familiar pose, at least for me,
during Wheat Kings' practice on Friday
As strange as it sounds, the current National Hockey League lockout might be good news for former Brandon Wheat King Wade Redden.

The 35-year old was in the American Hockey League the past two years so that his salary wouldn’t count toward the salary cap, and the former NHL All-Star still has another two years left on the contract he signed with the New York Rangers in 2008.

However, the new CBA could include new regulations which might change Redden’s situation and give him another chance to play in the NHL.

Redden and fellow alumnist Jordin Tootoo practiced with the Wheat Kings in Kelowna on Friday and I had a chance to speak with the 35-year old afterward.

“Obviously, after it’s all figured out, my situation will hopefully be addressed and something will be done where I can get out of the situation that I’m in,” said Redden, “That’s my hope, anyways, whether it’s through buyout or different scenerios.”

Even though Redden has played with the Connecticut Whale the past two seasons, he’s locked out just like all the other NHL players and not being paid by the Rangers.

Redden feels he’s made the best out of being in the minor leagues the past two years. “I wasn’t real happy about it but I think I went down there and had two pretty good years. I was still getting up every morning, going to the rink and playing hockey – albeit at a different level,” said Redden,who’s six games shy of 1,000 for his NHL career, “Certainly enjoyed my time there and tried to make the most of it.”

Redden was one of two former Wheat Kings to practice with the team Friday in Kelowna.

The other was Jordin Tootoo, who’s been making his off-season home in the B.C. city for the past five years.

Jordin Tootoo in unfamiliar 'red' during Wheat
Kings' practice on Friday
Tootoo was a sophmore in the NHL during the last lockout in 2004-2005, and spent that season playing in the American Hockey League.

The 29-year old says he’s a little bit more interested in what’s taking place in the negotiations this time around.

“This year, we’re a lot more educated on what’s going on and pretty much on a daily basis, we’re getting updates and what-not,” said Tootoo on Friday, “As I’m getting older, you tend to soak up a lot more than when you are younger.”

When the lockout is resolved, Tootoo will be in a different uniform for the first time in his nine year professional career after signing a three-year contract with Detroit in July.

Meantime, it’s been just under two years since Tootoo voluntarily entered the NHL/NHLPA’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program to receive treatment for an alcohol problem.

“This is a personal struggle that I had to deal with, and I couldn’t have done it without the tremendous support of my family and my fans and everyone in the daily basis of my life,” said Tootoo, “It’s been a great two years so far.”

Redden and Tootoo were not only able to practice with the Wheat Kings and give the current players on the squad some advice on Friday, but the duo also took the team to supper in Kelowna on Thursday night.

Both are expected to watch their former team in action Saturday when Brandon continues their road trip by taking on the Kelowna Rockets (8:35 p.m., 880 CKLQ).

I’ll have the interviews I did with Redden and Tootoo during Saturday’s broadcast.

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